Fee Increase Hits Swimming Community
Mayor Dan Sullivan's budget caused many Anchorage Parks and Recreation fees to increase in 2011, including a 30 percent hike for the swimming community.
Mayor Dan Sullivan's budget caused many Anchorage Parks and Recreation fees to increase in 2011, including a 30 percent hike for the swimming community who is feeling the pinch, and worry if costs get higher, they'll be forced to shutdown.
Most of us have taken swimming lessons sometime in our life, so we can learn a skill that's both a sport and a lifesaver if an emergency rises but for the Knik Swim Club, that skill is in jeopardy if costs keep rising.
The fee increase was established to help close the budget gap enforced by the mayor, which included an increase in pool rental fees.
“It’s a lifelong sport, it’s not just something that you learn one day and throw away, you can save your life, or someone else’s life, and that is huge, a huge asset to the community,” director of Knik Swim Club Michelle Caldwell said.
It’s a skill the swim club has provided to thousands of Alaskan swimmers for over 30 years.
“The drowning rate in Alaska is huge, a lot of it is the water, but if they don’t learn the skill in the pool, they will probably end up costing more money for the city, being rescued somewhere,” Caldwell said.
But as the prices get larger, the pools are also getting empty.
“There’s a decrease in numbers because the team has also raised its fees by necessity. It’s becoming an even more expensive sport,” Caldwell said.
In tight times, parents and their budgets are getting pushed to the limit.
“It worries me because swimming lessons are only 45 minutes and you wonder if the cost continues to go up, you know how much longer can you afford it,” Anchorage mother Mary St. John said.
And club officials say they've had to cut lessons by half just to keep the program going.
“All my money other than going to a minimal paycheck, is going into the pool, and the user free,” Caldwell said.
Staff members say if parents and kids have a tough time paying the fees, there is a risk of the community at large paying the price.
“You’re going to end up with people who don’t know how to swim, who are going to end up increasing the drowning rate,” Caldwell said.
A reality some parents are worried about.
“There is that worry that I will have to tell my children that we can’t do this because the price is just too high,” St. John said.
Swim club officials also said they are worried about the Bartlett High School Pool closing or limiting hours this summer, leaving the team with no where to go.